Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

February 19, 2014

If you belong to God, never, ever think that you are useless or that your failures will stop Him from working out His purposes in your life.  Here is a true story of an unlikely candidate to become such a treasure, even in the midst of her human failures.



 Somehow, each one of us is an intricate part of a grand puzzle.  Whether we can see it or not. We are intertwined together in this journey called life.  We bump up against each other and affect in some way the other lives we cross paths with.


It’s funny that we can see this about other people, how they impact our lives,  but we usually can’t perceive how we are affecting others.  For better or worse, we are all a part of the molding process in the hands of the great Potter, our Creator.


It’s not something we consciously do most likely, it is in the being of who we each are that somehow brushes up against the other lives we around us.  I like to call it         “ soul painting”. 


I want to tell you about a most unlikely personality that came into my life and probably to her dying day, never knew how much she had impacted me.  Her name is Mary.  She was my former mother-in-law.


Mary was a colorful character, cheerful and full of life.  She was a school teacher most of her working career, but she had retired by the time I came into the picture.  By all outward appearances, Mary had become a failure.  Fallen quite far from where her life began.


She was born into a privileged family.  Her parents were Norwegian immigrants and her father had successfully built a tuna canning business in California.  When Mary reached college age she was wining and dining with the debutants and famous families in southern California. 


Her college room mate was Diane Disney, daughter of the famous Walt Disney.  She majored in music and could sing opera beautifully.  She married the son of a famous orchestra conductor and was living the high life. 


When she graduated from college, however, the youthful recreational drinking continued in an unhealthy way.  Something she never got free from and it eventually took her life.


She made a series of bad decisions, including an affair that cost her not only her marriage, but her place in the high society circles that her marriage had brought her. Her descent was painful and sad.


After having two children with her second husband, he left her.  Later marrying a woman she had once called her best friend.  All these things seemed to crush a part of her, but she always kept a cheery disposition.  


Mary married for the third time to a gentle Fillipino man that was also an alcoholic.  This pretty much sealed her fate in that area.  Together they drank, laughed and argued.  Mary’s voice was shrill and loud from all her years of being a school teacher, as you can imagine. Her husband, Frank, had a hobby of collecting junk from yard sales, which drove Mary crazy.  He especially collected bikes with the dream of repairing them all and sending them back to the Phillipines to help his people.  Their lovely back yard in southern California was lined with broken bike parts to her dismay.


Mary had retired and had some difficulty getting around on her feet.  She was home bound most of the time.  She had a 1/2 dozen cats and dogs at any given time and our kids loved to go and visit her.  She lived in a small two bedroom house in a modest neighborhood.  Far from the luxury she had once lived in.


How ironic it was, that at this point in her life, she became the greatest blessing in mine!  As man would look at her, Mary was a failure, but as God and I looked at her, she had become something beautiful.  Mary was in some ways, done with herself.  She had become all about other people.  She had a huge heart and life had brought her to a place of being humble.  A trait that most people don’t fully understand or appreciate.  Yet in the kingdom of God, it is highly regarded.  Mary no longer had an image to live up to.  She was free to love with her big heart.


When I was pregnant with my second child, I was again, extremely sick with not only morning sickness, but all day sickness.  I still had to work and take care of my three year old.  It was difficult.  Mary knew this and would call me everyday with her cheery voice, “Hi Jeannie, how are you feeling today?”  Her love and acceptance of me carried in her words.  Not all mother-in-laws appreciate their daughter-in-laws and I felt blessed.


I never got tired of her calls and she cracked me up so often.  She was an avid QVC Shopping channel watcher.  I would get calls asking “Do you have a spaghetti cooker, or bread maker, or foot massager?”  The list was endless.  Some I accepted and some I said “no” to because I knew she wasn’t watching her own budget.  Her heart overtook her logic most of the time.


She and Frank were great grandparents.  My parents lived 3000 miles away on the east coast and her other grandparents just weren’t the “grandparent” type.  Mary and Frank loved the role.  They built a tree house, tree swing, and hammock.  There were endless toys and animals at her house.  These were good years, until they had to rent out the garage apartment, which limited the kids activities there.


I loved Mary.  We all knew how bad her alcohol problem was, but her cheery nature and love somehow shined past all of that.  She was my greatest advocate during some very tough years.  I had many surgeries and was in lots of pain from that point on and I tried to hide it and keep my chin up.  I don’t think Mary ever knew how much she meant to me.  Her calls were so often like sunshine to me.  God used her in my life, just as she was.  


One night she called me pretty late, she had been drinking, but I could tell her heart was heavier than usual.  She had such a tender heart sometimes.  She cried for days after John F. Kennedy, Jr. died in a plane crash.  You would have thought she knew him personally.  That was a beauty that came from all her own pain.  She could connect with others hurting with such ease and sincerity.


I knew something was different this time. She asked me to pray which was something she rarely did.  God put the most beautiful prayer in my mouth.  I spoke to her as if she was a princess, beloved by God and a daughter of God.  The thing is that she truly was, but no one had acknowledged this.  She had never heard those words.  She called me back a few minutes later crying and saying, “you have no idea what that has done for me”.  I knew in my heart that although she had prayed to accept Christ many times, she finally believed it.  It somehow had sunk into her, that God accepted her and she Him.  I knew she would be safe in God’s arms at her life’s end.


Mary died a few months later.  Her liver shut down from all the damage the alcohol had done over the years.  I was sad, but I knew she was at peace in heaven.  Her absence left a great big hole in my heart and life.  My kids missed her dearly.  She had given them some of the best childhood memories of their life.  She had given me such a pure love and encouragement that got me through many difficult days.


Mary, Mary quite contrary.  From the outside looking at her life, she seemed a failure, but from God’s vantage point and from my heart,  Mary was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known.  Everyone was always loved and accepted in her presence. She was a blessing to many other people too.  Her circumstances had left her selfless of heart and giving.  She really was a treasure and always will be in my heart and God’s.


One Response to “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary”

  1. loislanetx said

    What a wonderful story. God Bless you. Thank you, Lois

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